Nietzsche's Umsphinxt

Frank W. Stevenson
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Department of English, NTNU
Derrida has related Nietzsche’s woman-figures to the ironic self-difference of truth and Deleuze has explored the relationship between irony and the opening power of the “question”; here I interpret Nietzsche’s feminine figures or voices, particularly in Zarathustra, as the (Sphinx-like) discursive or rhetorical force of questioning itself. I am especially interested in the identity-and-difference of female/male voices in the mono/dialogues of “The Stillest Hour” (Zarathustra II) and “Daughters of the Desert” (Zarathustra III) as this is expressed through the female’s “violent” posing of rhetorical and riddle questions which, being in a sense “unanswerable” because “already answered,” in effect destroy or “absorb” the male voice/figure. I then set this reading in the context of Kierkegaard’s distinction between an ironic mode of questioning, through which all possible answers are absorbed into the question (leaving only the emptiness of an ironic effect), and a speculative mode through which the question “opens out” into possible answers—or what Deleuze (who does not really distinguish these modes) sees as an ongoing series of (possible) questions-answers-questions. I suggest that Nietzsche’s Question-Women of Zarathustra can (also) embody this force of “opening” of the question into emergent future possibilities/answers, the pure play of what Deleuze calls the “dice-throw” and Nietzsche “dancing with Lady Chance.”